African American Nurse Officers at Camp Columbia, 1943

Photograph from the US National Archives:
Original Caption: “While awaiting assignment after arriving in Australia, first Negro nurses to reach these shores try bicycle riding near their quarters in Camp Columbia, Wacol, Brisbane. Left to Right: 2nd Lt. Beulah Baldwin (Cleveland, Ohio), 2nd Lt. Alberta S. Smith (Kansas City, MO), and 2nd Lt. Joan S. Hamilton (Kansas City, MO), all attached to the 268th Station Hospital.” 

Photographer: Williams. This item was produced or created on November 29, 1943. See:

The 268th Station Hospital, an all African American 150-bed hospital, was based at Camp Columbia. This hospital, was activated at Fort Huachuca, Arizona on 1 March 1943. The unit embarked for the Southwest Pacific Area on 15 October 1943 on the SS Monterey without a convoy arriving in Sydney in November 1943. They relocated to Brisbane and established their hospital facilities at Camp Columbia at Wacol whilst they waited for their hospital was being constructed at Milne Bay in New Guinea.

The following info is from the OzatWar website. For the white Americans, the US Army 42nd General Hospital unit took over Stuartholme girls school in Brisbane to establish a hospital. They also took another 20 acres of adjoining land to build administration quarters. As the hospital facilities at Stuartholme did not have enough room to handle the patients sent to them, a second hospital site was established at Camp Columbia about 12 miles away by road. Hospital facilities here, were first met by 3- 100ftx20ft simple type infirmary’ buildings later converted to wards,and to which further hospital construction was added at a later-date to suit the needs of a 500 bed tented hospital.The Hospital at Camp Columbia was also known as Section II and also as the convalescent section. The nurses, doctors, and enlisted men rotated through the convalescent section at Camp Columbia. 

The Hospital at Camp Columbia was essentially divided into three sections:-

  • Surgical
  • Medical
  • Malaria

The 42nd General Hospital’s newspaper “Stethoscope” of 19 May 1943 noted that the Malaria Section had the most patients. The nurses left the Hospital at Camp Columbia in August 1943 to return to Stuartholme. The remaining members of Section II moved to the new hospital at Holland Park on 21 October 1943 . The officers in charge of the Hospital at Camp Columbia included Major William Walker (the first and last officer-in-charge), Major Simon Bager, Captain Crawford, and Captain Muller.

Site of the former military hospital now Brisbane Corrective Services. Photo Paul Budde 2022
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